When you can’t read an eye chart well, your sight is impaired. When you can’t read it at all, you are blind. When you can’t see the disproportional number of Black men killed by the police, the extraordinary discrepancy of Blacks in prison, the numbers of Blacks arrested for possession of cannabis compared to the White population, it should indicate that you are prejudiced. When the facts are so blatantly obvious, we are blind to our own biases.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is a case in point. He denies systemic racism exists. The Republican governor argues that the idea that the U.S. has systemic policies that perpetuate racism is absolute “horse manure.” He undoubtedly has the information in front of him but cannot see it. Buying him a new pair of glasses is unlikely to change his views. His views have too much support from others who share his myopia. 


It’s hard to have a serious discussion about racism without discussing history, but those who believe systemic racism doesn’t exist almost always vehemently reject consideration of the past. Additionally, when looking at the present, racist deniers vigorously protest that we no longer behave brutally. On the contrary, they argue, people of color often receive favored treatment to the point that the White majority experiences discrimination.


It’s a convenient argument. American characteristics of boldness, inventiveness, and independence stem from our frontier past. There is little reticence in recalling history when dominant White pride is analyzed. But in considering racism, systemic racist deniers believe Black history should be excluded. Prohibiting uncomfortable information has long been a pillar of racism.


Historians mark the starting point of slavery in America as 1619. Slavery ended in 1865 with the adoption of the 13th Amendment. If so, slavery existed for 236 years in what we call our country. What followed could hardly be called freedom. 


The Jim Crow era covered nearly a century during which lynching was commonplace. Most Americans recall the era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency as a period of financial resurrection. Yet Blacks were excluded from all of the administration’s programs. Additionally, Blacks were not allowed the benefits of the GI Bill following WWII despite having served in the military. During the remarkable growth of homeownership in the late 1950s to the 80s, Blacks were red-lined, unable to participate in the financial basis that many Americans now enjoy.


Racism is extremely commonplace in modern America. It is present in our education, health care, criminal justice, banking systems, and more. Most of these are primarily kept out of sight but can found with a bit of honest inquiry. The case of George Floyd, an example of police brutality against Blacks, is an illustration.


Police brutality has been known to Black people for decades. However, for Whites, only the advent of widely available cell phone cameras has created irrefutable evidence that police brutality is widespread. 


During the past year, it has become challenging to keep track of the number of brutal assaults on Blacks by police. These events were previously known to the Black population but largely unseen by Whites.


The vast occurrence of COVID to people of color should be another shout-out that says systematic racism is real. Viruses don’t discriminate by race except that they are more lethal to those of poor and compromised health. The Black population, hampered by systematic discrimination built into the health care system, is 1.4 times as likely to die of COVID as Whites.


Most Americans do not believe they are racist. They argue that they treat people of color with kindness and respect. Undoubtedly true. Unfortunately, such actions are not enough to alter racism already build into our nation’s criminal justice, health care, and education policies. Without seeing the available facts, we will continue to be shortsighted and harbor some degree of racism.


DeSantis is just one high-profile politician who needs to reflect deeply on the evidence before speaking so blindly. The list of others who could do the same is long indeed.